CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas– Two worlds collide at the newest exhibit hosted by the Weil Gallery in the Center for the Arts at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. “Bear/Hunt” is a joint exhibition of photographic works by American artists Alan Charlesworth and Jordan Baumgarten which explores notions of intimacy, domesticity, heteronormativity and variable masculinities.
The collaborative exhibition, curated by Jennifer Garza-Cuen, Assistant Professor of Photography at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, is a combination of two projects done separately by Charlesworth and Baumgarten. The name “Bear/Hunt” was chosen as an amalgam of the two artists’ projects – Baumgarten’s work, “Average American of the Right Type,” investigating the hunting culture and what it means to be a “real man” in modern American society, and Charlesworth’s work, “Brotherhood of Bears,” documenting Bear culture, which is a subculture within the gay community that idolizes larger, harrier gay men who project an image of rugged masculinity.
The images in “Bear/Hunt” were curated in such a way that the lines between traditional masculinity and an atypical view of the gay community are blurred when viewed together.
“There are a few pictures that you can’t tell whether it’s my photograph or Jordan’s,” says Charlesworth. “We are so interconnected because our projects both document American masculinity but in completely different sub-genres.”
On Oct. 13, the artists hosted a lecture for Islander students and interested members of the community before the “Bear/Hunt” opening reception. During the lecture, the artists talked about their background, inspiration and influences, and what things they wish they had done differently.
“I think that students only see successes and don’t necessarily see all the mistakes that happened to get there,” said Baumgarten.
Baumgarten and Charlesworth challenge people who visit the exhibit to leave asking themselves questions about their idea of masculinity and identity.
“I hope that people connect with our work and that it helps spark questions that are authentic to their personal life experience,” said Baumgarten.
“Due to mass media portrayals, we are spoon-fed this idea of a gay man being this perfectly fit person, someone who is clean-shaven, or effeminate, which isn’t bad, but that is not my interpretation of what a gay man is,” explained Charlesworth. “I think identity has a lot to do with self-expression, and as cliché as it is, it can take a long time, even years, to find your identity.”
Charlesworth and Baumgarten are personal friends and colleagues of Garza-Cuen. Garza-Cuen met the pair during time they all shared as graduate students at the Rhode Island School of Design.
“I proposed a collaboration investigating ideas of masculinity in contemporary culture and the artists took it from there,” says Garza-Cuen. “I’m thrilled that this project was selected to be shown at the Weil Gallery and hope that those who view it will be prompted to explore their own assumptions and expectations regarding masculinity.”
“Bear/Hunt” will be on display at the Weil Gallery until Friday, Nov. 17. For more information about the show, click here.